July 17, 2018

House Passes Caucus Co-Chair-Sponsored DELTA Act

The House of Representatives has voted to pass H.R. 4819, the Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act, a bill aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth through trans-boundary conservation programs in the Okavango River Basin.

Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), a co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, introduced the bill with bipartisan support in January. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX), and Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN), also co-chairs of the House International Conservation Caucus, were among original co-sponsors of the bill.

The Okavango River Basin is Africa’s most expansive inland water system, extending from its source in the highlands of Angola, through Namibia, and into the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. These waters support more than one million Angolans, Botswanans, and Namibians, as well as Africa’s largest remaining population of elephants and a wealth of biodiversity. The region is ripe with potential for development through ecotourism, which can be a sustainable source of revenue for local communities. Like other regions in Africa, increased levels of poaching and wildlife trafficking threaten elephant populations in the region and prospects for inclusive, sustainable growth.

The aim of the DELTA Act is to combat these threats and provide opportunities for growth by enhancing cooperation and coordination between governments, leveraging the experience and expertise of private sector and non-governmental stakeholders. Specifically, the DELTA Act directs responsible agencies to engage the governments of Angola, Botswana, and Namibia, and neighboring Zambia and Zimbabwe, to develop a strategy in partnership with regional entities, multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to promote sustainable natural resource and water management, combat wildlife trafficking, and spur inclusive economic growth. Further, the bill authorizes U.S. assistance programs to prioritize ongoing efforts to promote development through conservation, provide technical assistance, and build anti-poaching capacity, and it and provides for U.S. government cooperation with private sector entities to support conservation projects in the region.

“Animals and poachers know no borders,” Chairman Royce said during floor debate on the bill. “In order for conservation efforts to be successful, we must take a transboundary approach. I was proud to be the author of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Act of 2004. With that act, we saw that increased coordination across national borders can be successful in protecting critical landscapes and combating poaching threats. The DELTA Act looks to build on these proven successes.”

Read Chairman Royce’s full House floor remarks here.

The DELTA Act now moves to the Senate, where the co-chairs of the Senate International Conservation Caucus have recently introduced companion legislation. Caucus co-chair Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is the lead sponsor on the bill. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), also co-chairs of the International Conservation Caucus, are original co-sponsors, along with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE).

Senator Coons and Chairman Royce each spoke about the need for coordinated conservation efforts in the Okavango River Basin during a July 17th discussion held at the U.S Institute for Peace. Watch their discussion here.

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